Ecstatic Shamanism as lrReligion

Now, as we know from ethnology, the symbolic systems or religions of hunting peoples everywhere are essentially shamanistic, sharing so many basic features over time and space as to suggest common historical and psychological origins. At the center of shamanistic religion stands the personality of the shaman and the ecstatic experience that is uniquely his, in his crucial role as diviner, seer, magician, poet, singer, artist, prophet of game and weather, keeper of the traditions, and healer of...

The Mosaic Completed

Nevertheless, Wasson was sufficiently a child of the scientific age not to leave it at that (he is, in fact, a meticulous and critical scholar and tireless researcher, as demonstrated by his extraordinary book on the identity of Soma 1968 and his latest work, the first definitive monograph on an Oaxacan mushroom rite 1974 ). Even before his Mazatec mushroom experience he was in close contact with Roger Heim as one of the leading mycologists in the western world, and Heim now accompanied him on...

The Fly Agaric and the Intoxicating Urine

There was one aspect of Siberian mushroom intoxication, reported even in the earliest sources, that must have seemed singularly shocking to one who encountered it for the first time the drinking of the urine of a bemushroomed person, and also the urine of reindeer that had browsed as reindeer apparently like to do on the fly-agaric. By no means all the tribes that used Amanita muscaria also drank fly-agaric urine, but the custom was sufficiently well-developed and widespread to have drawn the...

The Reindeer and the Sacred Mushroom

Now, it happens that not only Siberian shamans but their reindeer as well were involved with the sacred mushrooms. Several early writers on Siberian customs reported that reindeer shared with man a passion for the inebriating mushroom, and further, that at times the animals urgently sought out human urine, a peculiarity that greatly facilitated the work of the herders in rounding them up and that might just possibly have assisted their reindeer-hunting ancestors in early efforts at...

Fly Agaric Urine and the Identity of Soma

With this we come to a crucial point in the development of the argument for Amanita muscaria, one that has predictably caused no end of debate among scholars. The psychoactive properties of the fly-agaric, we recall, are unique among the psychedelics in that they pass unaltered through the kidneys, which explains why in Siberia it was customarily taken in two forms First Form Taken directly, and by directly I mean by eating the raw mushroom, or by drinking its juice squeezed out and taken neat,...

Gods and Men as Tobacco Addicts

I do not wish to imply that tobacco was universally employed to trigger alternate states of consciousness. On the contrary, it probably served a greater variety of sacred purposes than any other plant in the New World, among its most important and virtually universal functions being that of divine sustenance for the gods, mainly in the form of smoke it also served as an indispensable adjunct of shamanic curing, primarily as a supernaturally charged fumigant but sometimes also as a panacea. Yet...

Hallucinogens And Archetypes

In the preceding chapter it was suggested that visions of jaguars, anaconda snakes, and the like are expectable images in a tropical forest setting. After all, one would hardly expect psychedelic visitations from Asian tigers or African lions among the Tukano they would be even less likely here than in the urban slums of Amazonian Peru, where healers called ayahuasqueros employ the vine of the souls in the psychotherapeutic curing of super-naturally caused illnesses, especially those associated...

Hallucinogens And The Sacred Deer

Almost everywhere in the New World deer were important food animals. But almost nowhere were they only that. On the contrary, few animals were so universally revered as supernaturally endowed with a special power, and perhaps none was so widely associated with shamans and shamanism. Consequently, even where deer was favorite and frequent game, its hunt was never routine, its death never casual. To eat deer meat, it seems, almost always and everywhere was at least as much a matter of feeding the...

Iboga Cults in Tropical Africa

The first significant modern anthropological examination of Tabernanthe iboga is that of James W. Fernandez, who studied its role in the Bwiti and MBieri cults of the Fang of Gabon in the larger context of reformist and nativistic African religious movements. What follows is based on a paper published by him in 1972.* In the Fang tongue T. iboga is called eboka. The principal active alkaloid is mainly concentrated in the root bark, and it is this that the Fang employ for ecstatic inebriation,...

Journeys into Mythic Time

All of this is very true, and obviously is of great significance not only to psychology and psychotherapy but also to the ethnology of religion and the ecstatic experience. But it is important to note that the phenomenon of plunging the mind into myth or mythic time, that is, into a time when everything is possible, is larger than the choice of a particular alkaloid or group of related alkaloids, because, as we know, other plants with active principles that belong to different groups than the...

Magical Uses of Frog and Toad Poison

Apart from the poison of Bufo marinus, which evidently does have what can be called hallucinogenic properties, the venoms of some other species of toads or frogs in South America have found uses that can only be described as magical, on occasion approximating the ecstatic state, even if from the point of view of pharmacology and toxicology their action belongs to a wholly different class. A good deal of the evidence then available from travelers, ethnologists, and other sources was brought...

Mescaline A Misnomer

I should mention here that not only mescaline but also peyote are actually misnomers. Lophophora williamsii, sometimes called mescal button (hence mescaline) has nothing whatever to do with the species of agave from which the potent liquors known as mescal and tequila are distilled. Peyote itself derives from the Aztec peyoti, a term that was applied not just to Lophopora williamsii but also to several other unrelated plants with medicinal properties. The Huichols call the sacred cactus hikuri,...

Morning Glory and Mother Goddess

In Spanish the seeds of the morning glory are commonly known as semilla de la Virgen, seed of the Virgin. The extraordinary importance of the doncella, niha or young maiden, in the preparation of the morning-glory infusion as well as the sacred mushrooms and other divinatory agents has been noted by Wasson (1967a), who thought the Indians might have seized on Christian iconography in this connection because it was already familiar to them in their own supernatural system. I think he was quite...

Mythic Origins of Peyote

I remember one elderly mara'akame (the Huichol term meaning both curing and singing shaman and sacrificing priest) of great renown, of whom it was said that he had made this difficult journey no less than 32 times on foot Walking in both directions was the traditional way, but nowadays most Huichol peyoteros make use of whatever transportation is available autos, trucks, buses, horse-drawn wagons, even the train. This is acceptable so long as all the sacred places along the way are properly...

Nutmeg and Psychotherapy

The two drugs mentioned above, MDA and MMDA, do not occur in nature. They are the result of amination of the essential oils of nutmeg. If similar processes occur naturally in the human body it would help to explain the subjective effects of nutmeg. MDA (methylene dioxyamphetamine) is an amination product of safrol, and the closely related MMDA (3-methoxy-4,5-methylene dioxyphenyl isopropylamine) is a synthetic compound derived from the addition of ammonia to myristicin, the most important...

Snuffing and Animal

No one has contributed more to our knowledge of the symbolic content of Central and South American snuffing paraphernalia than the Swedish ethnologist S. Henry Wassen, recently retired director of the Gothenburg Ethno-graphical Museum. Wassen, to whose early studies of the ethnopharmacology and symbolism of South American frogs and toads we will shortly return in connection with what has recently been discovered about toad- and frog-poison intoxication, has over the past decade published...

Snuffing in Mexico

Now we give attention to Mexico and the archaeological evidence for an ancient snuffing complex that dates back at least to the second millennium BC, apparently became extinct as a major technique of ritual intoxication before AD 1000, and today survives only in remote mountain areas of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where some curers are said to inhale the pulverized seeds of the morning glory (T. Knab, personal communication, based on the unpublished field notes of the late botanist Thomas McDougall)....

The Dangerous Passage

Having symbolically shed their adulthood and human identity the pilgrims can now truly assume the identity of spirits, for just as their leader is Tatewari, the Fire God and First Shaman, so they become the ancestral deities who followed him on the primordial hunt for the Deer-Peyote. In fact, it is only when one has become spirit that one is able to cross over that is, pass safely through the dangerous passage, the gateway of Clashing Clouds that divides the ordinary from the nonordinary...

The Diabolic Root

The earliest hallucinogenic cactus depicted in ancient American art is a tall, columnar member of the Cereus family, Trichocereus pachanoi, the mescaline-containing San Pedro of the folk healers of coastal Peru (Sharon, 1972). San Pedro has been identified in the funerary effigy pottery and painted textiles of Chavin, the oldest of a long succession of Andean civilizations, dating to ca. 1000 BC, and also in the ceremonial art of the later Moche and Nazca cultures, which gives this sacred...

The Ritual Kill

About 300 feet from camp we crossed a railroad track and beyond it a barbed-wire fence. The men had their bows and arrows ready. Everyone had shoulder bags and some had baskets as well, containing offerings. We had walked perhaps 500 feet when Ram n lifted his fingers to his lips in a warning of silence, placed an arrow on his bowstring, and motioned to the others to fan out quickly and quietly in a wide arc. I pointed to the distant rise was that not where we would find the peyote He shook his...

Tobacco Proper Food Of The Gods

The Spanish clergy from the first classified tobacco alongside peyote, morning glories, and mushrooms as a ritual intoxicant of traditional Indian culture. This fact may come as a surprise, but the ministers of the Colonial church knew whereof they spoke. The natural and cultural history of tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) as an aboriginal American cultigen as much unknown to the rest of the world less than 500 years ago as were chocolate, maize, and rubber is too complex and too extensive to fit into...

Yaje and the Mythic Origins of Society

As described by Reichel-Dolmatoff (1972 97-102), the yaje-drinking ceremony commences in the communal house after nightfall with ritualized dialogues that recount the Creation Myth and the genealogies of the exogamous phratries, the origins of humanity, of yaje, and of the social order being commemorated with song and dance to the accompaniment of instrumental sounds a phallic rattle staff that symbolizes the primordial fertilizing ray of the Sun, the rhythmic pounding of wooden tubes, and the...

You Will See Your Life

When every one of the companions had chewed a piece of the first sacrificial hikuri, Ram n took out his fiddle and one of the others a guitar (both homemade), and the veterans stood aside in a group to sing and dance the matewdmete into a receptive condition. In the meantime, another gourd had been filled with peyote cut into small pieces, and the initiates were not allowed to rise until they had emptied it. As the bowl was handed around, the others, led by Ram n, exhorted them over and over to...

Male Female Symbolism and Acculturation

The mushroom of the origin myth is a white fungus with a large cap that is sometimes consumed in the Bwiti cult and that also plays a role in herbal concoctions. No psychoactive properties have been reported, but the mushroom has not been studied ethnobotanically or chemically. Fernandez points out several important elements in the myth. First, it clearly identifies the eboka plant with the deep forest and the Pygmies as an agent of transition that enables the people to pass from the familiar...

Datura among North American Indians

None of the above should be taken to mean that the negative potential of Datura in any sense, or anywhere, outweighed its positive role in the indigenous ritual and symbolic systems. On the contrary, most Indians in North and South America have used these plants solely for positive purposes, such as initiation of boys and their integration into adulthood and full participation in tribal culture through ecstatic confrontation of the truth of the ancestral ways for individual and communal vision...

Initiation Rites in California

An Indian so initiated would not likely have suffered an identity crisis. Would that we and our parents had been so fortunate in knowing when the psychological boundary between childhood and adulthood had been crossed In California, the toloache initiation cult originated among the Shoshonean (Uto-Aztecan) peoples of the south, but some of its features spread as far north as the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. The puberty-rite aspect with its prominent death-rebirth theme was especially...

The Elusive Soma Deity

But that was just the problem however many species different Vedic scholars have identified with Soma in the nearly two centuries since Sanskrit was first translated into European languages, its true identity proved elusive. Soma and its sacrifice are celebrated in many hymns, but the Rig Veda was sung by the ancient poet-priests for their contemporaries, who did not need to be told what Soma was precisely, and they obscured the mysterious plant god's natural morphology with all sorts of poetic...

Discovery of Hallucinogens Deliberate or Accidental

Which brings up a point that was raised in the Introduction in relation to the plant hallucinogens in general it is almost impossible to conceive that the discovery of the transformational qualities of certain acrid mushrooms that were clearly unsuitable as ordinary food could have been anything but the result of conscious search for psychodynamic agents and even deliberate experimentation for different ways to activate or heighten their effects. As we saw, this requirement applies especially...

The Sacred Mushrooms Rediscovery In Mexico

If true, surely one of the more significant developments in the study of the ritual use of plant hallucinogens in Middle America is the recent spate of reports that at least some individuals in two Maya populations in southern Mexico are employing the psychoactive mushroom Stropharia cubensis* in the context of religious ceremony, divination, or curing. The two groups for which this has been reported but not as yet wholly confirmed by scientifically trained observers are the Choi, who live not...

Found at Last A Living Mushroom Cult in Mexico

He was to be proved right in the late 1930's. In 1936 Papa Weitlaner encountered magic mushrooms for the first time in the country of the Mazatecs in Oaxaca. He sent a specimen to Reko, who forwarded it to the Harvard Botanical Museum, where unfortunately it arrived too badly deteriorated to be identified. In 1938, Weitlaner, his daughter Irmgard, and her future husband Jean Basset Johnson, on a field trip to Huautia de Jimenez became the first outsiders permitted to attend though not...

Cannabis spp

The literature on the hemp plant, Cannabis, scientific and popular, is such that we need hardly add to it here. Also, strictly speaking, its best-known modern product, marihuana, the new social drug, is not a psychedelic but an euphoriant. But there is some significant new information on the genus Cannabis that has not been widely disseminated. Moreover, the active principles of Cannabis are perfectly capable of psychedelic effect, and have been so used through history, especially in Asia,...

Mushroom of the Underworld

Actually, Thompson was only partly right when he said that the Spaniards were silent on the matter of hallucinogens among the Maya, for several of the early dictionaries compiled by Spanish priests in the Guatemalan highlands demonstrate considerable Indian knowledge of the intoxicating effects of a number of mushroom species.* One of the oldest of the Colonial word lists, the Vico dictionary, which was apparently compiled well before the 1550's, explicitly mentions a mushroom called xibalbaj...

Ololiuhqui Sacred Hallucinogen of the Aztecs

Among the several sacred hallucinogens that were apparently too vital to the individual and social equilibrium of Indian Mexico to be suppressed after the Conquest, and that took on the trappings of Christian iconography without losing their essential pre-Christian meanings, was ololiuhqui. Ololiuhqui (ololuc), an Aztec word meaning round thing, contains no clue to its botanical identity, any more than does teonanacati, food or flesh of the gods, the name by which the Aztecs called certain...

Hallucinogenic Mushrooms North of Mexico

As a matter of fact, the ethnographic and ethnobotanical situation in North America proves just that. While we have as yet no conclusive evidence that any kind of psychoactive mushroom was employed by Native Americans north of Mexico, however important edible mushrooms might have been to their diet, it is a fact that, as was noted in a previous chapter, a number of varieties containing psilocybine and other hallucinogenic compounds occur in North America, including species of Psilocybe....

Introduction Of Hallucinogens

If one were to look for landmarks in the study of hallucinogens in the nearly forty years since LSD-25 was first developed in a Swiss laboratory in 1938, a good many possibilities come to mind. One would be the discovery in that same year that a cult of divine psychedelic mushrooms had survived among Mexican Indians, and the rediscovery and systematic investigation of that cult in the mid-1950's. Another would be the identification of the seeds of morning glories as the sacred Aztec...

LSD and Parkinsons Disease

In a very real sense the circle is also closing with respect to Hofmann's hope, expressed at the time of his epoch-making discovery of LSD, that because of its ability to mimic certain mental illnesses the drug might prove useful in their treatment. In fact, LSD has been employed to that end over the years by some psychiatrists, often with beneficial results. However, the potency of LSD and the severe legal limitations imposed in recent years on its use even under controlled scientific...

Antiquity and Origins of the Mushroom Cult

It can of course be argued that the two great mushroom traditions, that of New World Indians and that of the peoples of Eurasia, are historically unconnected and autonomous, having arisen spontaneously in the two regions from similar requirements of the human psyche and similar environmental opportunities. But are they really unrelated A good though controversial case has been made by some prehistorians for sporadic early contacts across the Pacific between the budding civilizations of the New...

Mycophiles and Mycophobes

In the meantime Mexican mushroom research had entered an entirely new and more public phase with the entry of the Wassons into the picture. Wasson was a banker, a vice president of J. P. Morgan amp Co. in New York his wife, Valentina Pavlovna who died in 1958 , was a Russian-born pediatrician. Wasson has often told the story of their deep personal stake in mushroom research, which received its initial impetus with his discovery, on their honeymoon, that he and she had assimilated from their...

Mushroom Stones and the Cult of Sacred Mushrooms

Mention in several of the early sources on Guatemalan Maya languages of a mushroom specifically named for the underworld i.e. the realm of the dead is especially interesting in light of the discovery of a ceremonial cache of nine beautifully sculptured miniature mushroom stones and nine miniature metates grinding stones , dating back some 2,200 years, in a richly furnished tomb at Kaminaljuyu, a late Preclassic and Early Classic archaeological site near Guatemala City. The coincidence of the...

Psychedelic Enemas

The rubber enema syringe is actually a South American Indian invention, but other suitable materials were also employed for the bulb. Intoxicating as well as medicinal enemas have been described both in the earliest European accounts of native customs, dating to the sixteenth century, and in the more recent ethnographic literature. Tobacco juice, ayahuasca Banisteriopsis caapi , and even a species of Anadenanthera A. colubrina whose seeds huiica or wilka were used for hallucinogenic snuff and...

The Virola Tree as a Source of Snuff

Psychotria Viridis

But even this corrected classification did not clear up all the confusion, because snuffs were attributed by many writers to Anadenanthera, whether or not that genus actually occurred locally, and even though the observed method of preparation suggested that several different and even unrelated species might be involved. The mystery was cleared up when several species of Virola, a tree belonging not, like Anadenanthera, to the Leguminoseae pea family but, like nutmeg, to the Myristicaceae, were...

Datura A Hallucinogen That Can Kill

There is another hallucinogenic plant in the mythology of the Huichols, anthropomorphized as Kieri Tewiyari, Kieri Person, whose special powers and relationship to the Sun deity are acknowledged with offerings of prayer arrows and other gifts. However, if Kieri pronounced ki-yeri is used at all, it is only rarely, in secrecy, and is generally disapproved. For many Huichols regard Kieri as a dangerous sorcerer whose effects, unlike those of peyote, may cause permanent insanity and even death....

Morning Glory Seeds as Divinity

Actually, as the Spaniards quickly saw, ololiuhqui, like the mushrooms and other magical plants, was more than just a means of communication with the supernatural. It was itself a divinity and the object of worship, reverently preserved within the secret household shrines of village shamans, curers, and even ordinary people in the early Colonial era. Carefully hidden in consecrated baskets and other dedicatory receptacles, the seeds were personally addressed with prayers, petitions, and...